My early research interests centred on East London, which is where I lived and worked. Much work had been done on the old East End, but relatively little was known about West Ham which, although outside the administrative boundaries of East London, was part of its broader and longer-term economic development. My PhD thesis looked at the unique industrial and political development of West Ham, in particular its critical role in the origins of independent labour representation. That interest in the popular political culture of East London has continued, but in the meantime I was increasingly attracted to the nexus between London and empire, especially with India. This, coupled with a more general interest in the new imperial history, has taken up most of my recent time. Finally, while in Yorkshire, I started work with Professor David Crouch on the history of Howdenshire in the East Riding. Given that the area of overwhelmingly agrarian and thinly populated, this has been a real departure for me, but I find I have become animated by questions of enclosure and land drainage, and the work continues.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
My past research has focused on London and Empire with a particular emphasis on the nexus between East London and India during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. My first book, The Culture of Labourism: the East End between the Wars (Edinburgh University Press, 1991) explored the rise to a position of seemingly unchallengeable power by the Labour Party, and its location within popular political culture. This was followed by The Other Empire: Metropolis, India and Progress in the Colonial Imagination (Manchester University Press, 2003) which sought to reveal homologies in the construction of India and East London as objects of knowledge in the nineteenth century. In the meantime I edited or co-edited three, six volume collections of primary materials related to his research, namely, The Metropolitan Poor: Semi-factual Accounts, 1795-1910 (Pickering and Chatto, 1999), Unknown London: Early Modernist Visions of the Metropolis, 1815-45 (Pickering and Chatto, 2000), and Britain in India, 1765-1905 (Pickering and Chatto, 2006).
More recently three long-term projects have been completed. Beyond the Tower: a History of East London (Yale University Press, 2011) is a widely-acclaimed history of the East End written with a wider reading public in mind. History: an Introduction to Method, Theory and Practice (Pearson, 2012), co-authored with Dr Peter Claus, is an attempt to write an accessible introduction to historiography, and The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Imperial Histories (Ashgate, 2012), co-edited with Professor Philippa Levine, is an ambitious collection which surveys recent scholarship in global imperial history. Philippa also co-edit the Routledge monograph series Empires and the Making of the Modern World.
I am now working toward the completion of a monograph on the intellectual and social origins of imperial land reform in the eighteenth century. Simultaneously, with Dr Peter Claus, I am near to completing a new edition of the textbook on historiography to be published by Routledge. And finally, in collaboration with Professor David Crouch at Hull University, I plan to complete work on a two-volume Victoria Country History of Howdenshire in the East Riding.